Tag Archives: Military Recruiting

Dwindling Recruit Numbers And Increasing Demands May Bring Back The Military Draft

U.S. Air Force Col. David S. Miller (left), administers the Oath of Enlistment in Albuquerque at the New Mexico Veterans Memorial Nov. 11, 2019. (Airman 1st Class Austin J. Prisbrey/Air Force)


In fiscal year 2018, the Army sought an ambitious 80,000 new recruits. They dropped that goal to 76,500 but still only came in at 70,000 by the end of the year. The service spent $429 million in enlistment bonuses.

In Fiscal Year 2019, the nearly 11,000 soldiers in the Army’s recruiting command brought in slightly more than 68,000 new recruits to the active side, spending $329 million and another $90 million to add 15,000 soldiers to the reserves.


“Over the past five years, retired Army Maj. Gen. Dennis Laich and Col. Larry Wilkerson along with members of the All-Volunteer Force Forum have traversed the country in an effort to address what they see as a looming crisis in the military — dwindling numbers of qualified and interested recruits for a military straining at the seams.

And they’ve got the solution: Bring back the draft.

The pair, along with William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy spoke to a crowd of a few dozen attendees in the Capitol Visitor’s Center Tuesday.

Impeachment hearings and other congressional business may have drawn away interested parties, but Wilkerson was not deterred. Each year they hold a daylong forum which lays out in detail how a draft could help close the military-civilian divide, cut recruiting spending and personnel costs and even help engage the citizenry to reduce or eliminate the militarization of foreign policy.

But Laich threw a kind of curveball at the common narrative that there just are not enough young American’s willing and able to serve in the armed forces.

It’s the “willing” part that the draft can eliminate, Laich said.

As he broke down the “AVF Arithmetic” for the audience, numbers did reveal themselves.

For example, an estimated 4 million people turn age 18 each year. Of those, the Pentagon estimates about 30 percent can qualify for military service, giving the armed forces 1.2 million men and women to bring on board.

But only 180,000 of those 1.2 million are willing and able, Laich said. That leaves more than 1 million potential recruits on the table.

And the services only need about 150,000 each year to maintain the force, he said.

“Numbers are not the problem,” Laich said. “It’s about who we access and how we use the law.”

Laich authored a book on the subject, “Skin in the Game: Poor Kids and Patriots,” and co-founded the forum to tackle the problem.

The retired two-star calls the current volunteer military recruiting, “unfair, inefficient and unsustainable.”

Some of the numbers they present bear that out. The Army, for instance, fell short of recruiting goals even after adjusting its initial mark last year. And this year took on even slower growth towards what officials had called for in recent years.

Alongside the recruiting money, the Army also granted between 10 percent to 12 percent of them some form of waiver either for weight, drug use, criminal records or test scores.

Nearly 2 percent, or close to 1,200 of those active Army recruits, were considered category IV recruits, scoring in the 10th to 31st percentile on test scores. Those recruits, a decade-old RAND study showed, wind up being 20 percent to 30 percent less effective in their jobs than category II and III soldiers, Laich said.

By scratching using the leverage of the draft on the larger numbers, Laich and Wilkerson said that the services would no longer need to court lower-quality recruits, grant as many, if any, waivers and bring a few National Merit scholars and All-American linebackers into the fold.

And to these men and their colleagues, it isn’t a matter of if the draft will return, but when.

That’s because a combination of ever-growing missions for the military and outside pressures on the dollars being spent their will force it, they said.

Those missions and challenges will include a rise in humanitarian and disaster relief in the face of increased natural disasters linked to climate change and a national defense policy that seeks to meet peer competitors such as Russia and China. Meanwhile, badly needed investments in the economy, environment and education competing with defense dollars, the panel said.

“We’re going to need a lot more soldiers and Marines, and probably the all services, as well,” he said.

That’s in part to competing with peers but more is needed for the military’s long reach to address what some predict to be a massive refugee and resources crisis over the coming decades as climate changes forces rising levels of conflict and displacement.

Wilkerson points to recent Hurricanes Irma, Maria and Harvey, all of which required major efforts from multiple states’ Guard units. The Texas Guard called up all 12,000 of its troops to respond to devastation in Houston.

And the drain on Guard, Reserve and active troops for the response to assist Puerto Rico continues in some forms.

Now, Wilkerson said, imagine if we had such events straining us on the homeland while at the same time needing to deploy a high number of troops to a shooting war abroad.

There wouldn’t be enough troops to do both.

For those reasons, the panel members see a measured way of reinstating the draft as the best option for getting Americans reacquainted with such service that previous generations took as the norm.

“We need to start,” Wilkerson said. “We need to have at least a small bit of conscription.”

The suggested method was laid out in Laich’s book and remains his summarized recommendation.

A national no-deferral lottery system for men and women.

If selected, the person would have the option of three choices — serving two years on active duty following basic training and job training; serving in either the Guard or Reserve for six years after the same training but if deployed for one year or more, service obligation would be considered satisfied; if the selected person wants instead to attend college then they would participate in the Reserve Officer Training Corps and serve a commission. If they fail to gain a commission then they revert to option one or two.

The larger effect, forum members hope, is to engage citizens in how the country uses its military.

“If we had a draft in 2003, would we have gone to Iraq at all?” Laich pondered.”


Two Decades of War Have Eroded the Morale of America’s Troops

Image:  USO – Hampton Roads and Central Virginia


“The military can’t set its own goals, can’t determine its own budget or which ideals it fights and dies for, and can’t decide how its losses will be honored, dishonored, or appropriated after the fact. 

So while America as a whole chooses to express its love for its military in gooey, substance-free displays, our military waits, perhaps hopelessly, for a coherent national policy that takes the country’s wars seriously.”

“If the courage of young men and women in battle truly does depend on the nature and quality of our civic society, we should be very worried. We should expect to see a sickness spreading from our public life and into the hearts of the men and women who continue to risk their lives on behalf of a distracted nation. 

And when we look closely, that is exactly what we see: a sickness that all the ritualistic displays of support for our troops at sporting events and Veterans Day celebrations, and in the halls of Congress, can’t cure.

Our military is a major part of who we are as a country; it is the force that has undergirded the post–World War II international order. Being an American means being deeply implicated in that, for good or for ill. But as Wellman’s response to his war suggests, the solution to our current dead end doesn’t lie within the military itself. 

The military can’t set its own goals, can’t determine its own budget or which ideals it fights and dies for, and can’t decide how its losses will be honored, dishonored, or appropriated after the fact. So while America as a whole chooses to express its love for its military in gooey, substance-free displays, our military waits, perhaps hopelessly, for a coherent national policy that takes the country’s wars seriously.

What would such a thing look like?

It would probably look like rescinding the open-ended Authorization for the Use of Military Force and making the president regularly go before Congress to explain where and why he was putting troops in harm’s way, what resources the mission required, and what the terms of success were. 
It would look like every member of Congress carrying out his or her constitutionally mandated duty to provide oversight of our military adventures by debating and then voting on that plan. 

It would look like average Americans taking part in that debate, and scorning anyone who tried to tell them they couldn’t. It would look like average Americans rolling their eyes in disgust when our leaders tell us we’re not at war while American troops are risking their lives overseas, or claim that Americans must support the wars their country engages in if they want to support the troops, or when a press secretary argues that anyone who questions the success of a military raid in which a service member died “owes an apology” to that fallen soldier.

It would look like our politicians letting the fallen rest in peace, rather than propping up their corpses for political cover. And when service members die overseas in unexpected places, such as the four killed in Niger last year, it would look like us eschewing the easy symbolic debates about whether our president is disrespecting our troops by inartfully offering condolences or whether liberals are disrespecting our troops by seizing upon those inartful condolences for political gain. It would look like us instead having a longer and harder conversation about the mission we are asking soldiers to perform, and whether we are doing them the honor of making sure it’s achievable.

In short, it would look like Americans as a whole doling out a lot fewer cheap, sentimental displays of love for our troops, and doubling down on something closer to Gunny Maxwell’s “tough love”—a love that means zeroing in on our country’s faults and failures.

if we don’t, then at some point the bottom will drop out. Morale is a hard thing to measure, but plenty of indicators suggest that it’s been falling. Ninety-one percent of troops called their quality of life good or excellent in a survey done by the Military Times back in 2009, when the downturn in violence in Iraq and a new strategy in Afghanistan still held out a promise of victory; by 2014 that had fallen to only 56 percent, with intentions to reenlist dropping from 72 to 63 percent. 

Recruiting is also down. For the past three decades, the military has generally accepted about 60 percent of applicants. In recent years that figure has been closer to 70 percent and is climbing. And the active-duty force is getting worn out. When I was in, I was impressed to meet guys with five deployments under their belts. Now I meet guys who have done eight, or nine, or 10. 

The situation is particularly bad within the Special Operations community. Last year Special Operations Command deployed troops to 149 countries; some operators cycled in and out of deployments at what General Raymond Thomas called the “unsustainable” pace of six months overseas, six months at home. I recently met an Army ranger who’d done seven deployments. He was on a stateside duty, and told me that when he and his wife realized that he’d be home for two years straight, it freaked them out a bit. They loved each other, and had three kids, but had never spent two solid years together without one of them going on a deployment. This is too much to ask, especially for ongoing wars with no end in sight. 

Theresa Whelan, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security, recently told the House Armed Services Committee that the Special Operations community has “had to eat our young … [and] mortgaged our future” to keep going.

Day by day, that mortgaged future creeps closer. When it arrives, who is going to sign up for a vague and hopeless mission? How do you motivate men and women to fight and die for a cause many of them don’t believe in, and whose purpose they can’t articulate? What happens to the bonds between men and women in combat, and to the bonds between soldiers and the citizenry for whom they fight, when we fail as a nation to treat our wars as a collective responsibility, rather than the special mission of a self-selected few?

Without a political leadership that articulates and argues for a mission and objective worth dying for, it’s no surprise that soldiers sometimes stop caring about the mission altogether. A sergeant who deployed to the Korengal Valley, in Afghanistan, told me that by the end of his deployment, he had purposely adopted a defensive posture, sacrificing mission for safety at every opportunity he could. 

This is reminiscent of what one officer said of the later stages of the Vietnam War: “The gung-ho attitude that made our soldiers so effective in 1966, ’67, was replaced by the will to survive.” It’s not that those troops lacked courage, but that the ends shifted. “We fought for each other,” I’ve heard plenty of veterans claim about their time in service, and no wonder. 
If your country won’t even resource the wars with what its own generals say is necessary for long-term success, what else is there to fight for? But if you think the mission your country keeps sending you on is pointless or impossible and that you’re only deploying to protect your brothers and sisters in arms from danger, then it’s not the Taliban or al-Qaeda or isis that’s trying to kill you, it’s America.”

“The Atlantic” – Two Decades of War Have Eroded the Morale of America’s Troops

Army Expelled 500 Immigrant Recruits In 1 Year


Immigrant Recruits

This November 2017 photo provided by Badamsereejid Gansukh shows him in front of a U.S. military recruiting office in New York’s Times Square. Gansukh, whose recruiter told him his Turkish language skills would be an asset to the military, said he didn’t know he was discharged at all until he asked his congressman’s office in the summer of 2018 to help him figure out why his security screening was taking so long. (Badamsereejid Gansukh via AP)


“Over the course of 12 months, the U.S. Army discharged more than 500 immigrant enlistees who were recruited across the globe for their language or medical skills and promised a fast track to citizenship.

The decade-old Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest recruiting program was put on hold in 2016. The Army began booting out those enlistees last year without explanation.”

“The AP has interviewed more than a dozen recruits from countries such as Brazil, Pakistan, Iran, China and Mongolia who all said they were devastated by their unexpected discharges or canceled contracts.

Until now, it’s been unclear how many were discharged and for what reason because the Army has refused to discuss specific cases. But the Army’s own list, submitted to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last month, says 502 service members who enlisted under MAVNI were discharged between July 2017 and July 2018.

The list, which was unsealed this week after a request from the AP, offers “refuse to enlist” as the reason for expelling two-thirds of the recruits. That is the reason given for 35 percent of enlistee discharges Army-wide, according to a research study posted on a Defense Department website.

But at least one recruit whose paperwork said he was being discharged from the program for that reason said it was not accurate.

Badamsereejid Gansukh, whose recruiter told him his Turkish language skills would be an asset to the military, said he didn’t know he was discharged at all until he asked his congressman’s office this summer to help him figure out why his security screening was taking so long.

“I never said I refuse to enlist, not at all,” Gansukh said. In fact, he said, he had opted in for another year after getting a call from his recruiter.

Upon learning he was discharged, “I just broke down,” the Minnesota State University graduate said.

The Defense Department said it would not comment on individual cases.

Twenty-two percent of the discharged immigrants were told their entry-level performance and conduct was subpar, which Pentagon spokeswoman Carla Gleason said could include being injured. Ten percent — or 48 service members — were listed as being discharged because of an unfavorable security screening. This can include having family members in another country — which is typical for immigrants — or the military not completing all of the screenings in a reasonable period.

There were three discharges for apathy or personal problems, two for having an encounter with police after enlisting, one due to pregnancy and another citing education, which could indicate a university opportunity.

Two “declined to ship” to boot camp, the list said, and two enlistees were discharged with the explanation “unknown,” which the Defense Department said it could not explain.

The names of the service members and other personal information were redacted from the list to protect their privacy.

This image shows a portion of a U.S. Army document submitted to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in September 2018 which lists 502 service members who enlisted under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest recruiting program, and who were discharged between July 2017 and July 2018. The document was unsealed at the request of The Associated Press, which has interviewed more than a dozen recruits from countries such as Brazil, Pakistan, Iran, China and Mongolia who said they were devastated by their unexpected discharges or canceled contracts. (U.S. Army via AP)

This image shows a portion of a U.S. Army document submitted to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in September 2018 which lists 502 service members who enlisted under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest recruiting program, and who were discharged between July 2017 and July 2018. The document was unsealed at the request of The Associated Press, which has interviewed more than a dozen recruits from countries such as Brazil, Pakistan, Iran, China and Mongolia who said they were devastated by their unexpected discharges or canceled contracts. (U.S. Army via AP)

All the enlistees had committed to active duty or reserves; many had been regularly drilling and training with their recruiters in preparation for boot camp while awaiting security clearances.

If a recruit hasn’t started active duty, the U.S. Army and Army National Guard have “the authority to separate the individual and terminate the contract, whether at the applicant’s request or at the government’s convenience,” Army spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell said in a statement Wednesday.

Margaret Stock, an immigration and national security law expert who helped create the MAVNI program, said the Army is not giving enlistees their legal right to appeal.

“They are trying to get rid of people,” she said.

Eligible recruits are required to have legal status in the U.S., such as a student visa, before enlisting. More than 5,000 immigrants were recruited into the program in 2016, and an estimated 10,000 are currently serving. The vast majority go into the Army, but some also go to the other military branches.

Gansukh, a first-generation immigrant from Mongolia, said he had hoped to be a part of something larger when he enlisted, and believed his service would be an honorable way to seek citizenship in his new country.

“Now I feel like I was really targeted in a way,” he said. “I feel isolated from the rest of the people who are living here.”

Other recruits discharged this year amid stalled security screenings were equally devastated.

“It’s just like you’re dropped from heaven to hell,” Panshu Zhao said earlier this summer after learning he was getting kicked out. The Chinese immigrant is a Ph.D. student at Texas A&M.

As the cases snowballed, some began suing.

In response to the litigation, the Army stopped processing discharges last month and reinstated at least three dozen recruits who had been thrown out of the service.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters late last month that he supports the MAVNI program.

“We need and want every qualified patriot willing to serve and able to serve,” Mattis said.”




Military Kills Recruiting Contracts for Hundreds of Immigrant Recruits


Thirty-seven service members from 22 different countries take the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony held at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan on July 4, 2013. (Army/Sgt. Anita VanderMolen)  


“Many of these enlistees have waited years to join a troubled recruitment program designed to attract highly skilled immigrants into the service in exchange for fast-track citizenship.

U.S. Army recruiters have abruptly canceled enlistment contracts for hundreds of foreign-born military recruits since last week, upending their lives and potentially exposing many to deportation, according to several affected recruits and former military officials familiar with their situation.

Now recruits and experts say that recruiters are shedding their contracts to free themselves from an onerous enlistment process, which includes extensive background investigations, to focus on individuals who can more quickly enlist and thus satisfy strict recruitment targets.

Margaret Stock, a retired Army officer who led creation of the immigration recruitment program, told The Washington Post that she has received dozens of frantic messages from recruits this week, with many more reporting similar action in Facebook groups. She said hundreds could be affected.

“It’s a dumpster fire ruining people’s lives. The magnitude of incompetence is beyond belief,” she said. “We have a war going on. We need these people.”

The nationwide disruption comes at a time when President Trump navigates a political minefield, working with Democrats on the fate of “dreamers” — undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children — while continuing to stoke his anti-immigrant base. It was not immediately clear whether Pentagon officials have taken hard-line immigration stances from the White House as a signal to ramp down support for its foreign-born recruitment program.

Stock said a recruiter told her there was pressure from the recruiting command to release foreign-born recruits, with one directive suggesting they had until Sept. 14 to cut them loose without counting against their recruiting targets, an accounting quirk known as “loss forgiveness.”

The recruiter told Stock that the Army Reserve is struggling to meet its numbers before the fiscal year closes Sept. 30 and that canceling on resource-intensive recruits is attractive to some recruiters, she said.

On Friday, the Pentagon denied ordering a mass cancellation of immigrant recruit contracts and said there were no incentives to do so. Officials said that recent directives to recruiters were meant to reiterate that immigrant recruits must be separated within two years of enlistment unless they “opt in” for an additional year.

But some recruits among half a dozen interviewed for this article said they were not approaching that two-year limit when their contracts were canceled, sowing confusion about the reason they were cut loose. The Pentagon declined to address whether messages to recruiters contained language that could have been misinterpreted.

Lola Mamadzhanova, who immigrated to the United States from Kyrgyzstan in 2009, said she heard that Army recruiters in Evanston, Ill., texted immigrant recruits last week asking whether they still wanted to enlist, with an unusual condition: They had 10 minutes to respond. She never received the text message.

“The recruiters did some dirty trick just to get me out so I won’t be trouble anymore,” Mamadzhanova, 27, told The Post on Thursday. Her active-duty contract was canceled Sept. 7, according to a separation document obtained by The Post that said she “declined to enlist.” She later learned the recruiters used a wrong number to text her.

The senior recruiter at Mamadzhanova’s station contacted by The Post declined to comment and called Mamadzhanova seven minutes afterward to reverse previous guidance, saying her unlawful immigration status was the reason she was released. She enlisted in December 2015, which puts her three months outside the two-year limit.

Mamadzhanova was assured by other recruiters that her status would not be an issue and that she would ship for training soon after her immigration status slipped, around her enlistment date. Mamadzhanova, who is fluent in Russian, said the shifting and unclear rules have blindsided her.

“Joining the Army was a dream of mine since America has treated me so well,” she said. She applied for asylum in April, joining other recruits who have sought asylum or fled.

Some anti-immigration sentiment has swirled in the Pentagon for years, former staffers have said, with personnel and security officials from the Obama administration larding the immigrant recruiting process with additional security checks for visa holders already vetted by the Departments of State and Homeland Security.

“Immigrant recruits are already screened far more than any other recruits we have,” Naomi Verdugo, a former senior recruiting official for the Army at the Pentagon, told The Post.

“It seems like overkill, but there seems to be a sense that no matter what background check you do, it’s never enough,” she said. Verdugo, along with Stock, helped implement the recruitment program.

One Indian immigrant, a Harvard graduate and early recruit who is now a Special Forces soldier, was called back to undertake the updated security checks, she said.

“Even though you’re in the Army, even though you’re naturalized, these policies say ‘we’re not going to treat you like any other soldier,’” Verdugo said of the concerns over immigrants held by some at the Pentagon.

Internal Pentagon documents obtained by The Post have said the immigrant recruitment program, formally known as the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program, was suspended last fall after the clearance process was paralyzed and officials voiced concern over foreign infiltrators, though it remains unclear whether any threats have ever materialized.

Experts say the relatively small number of recruits in the MAVNI program possess skills with outsize value, such as foreign languages highly sought by Special Operations Command. The program has rotated 10,400 troops into the military, mostly the Army, since its inception in 2009.

Although the military says it benefits from these recruits, they can generate a disproportionate amount of work for recruiters who must navigate regulations and shifting policies. The layered security checks can add months or years to the enlistment process, frustrating recruiters who must meet strictly enforced goals by quickly processing recruits.

In a summer memo, the Pentagon listed 2,400 foreign recruits with signed contracts who are drilling in reserve units but have not been naturalized and have not gone to basic training. About 1,600 others are waiting to clear background checks before active duty service, the Pentagon said.

The document acknowledges 1,000 of those troops waited so long that they are no longer in legal status and could be exposed to deportation. That number probably has climbed since the memo was drafted in May or June. Lawmakers have asked Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to intervene on behalf of those recruits.

Sens. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) filed an amendment in the defense authorization bill Tuesday to retain MAVNI recruits until their lengthy background investigations are finished.

“These brave men & women enlisted & the Administration turns its back on them,” Harris tweeted Friday. “We must pass Sen. Durbin’s & my bill to protect these recruits.”

During July 19 testimony in a lawsuit filed by recruits who said the federal government unlawfully delayed their naturalizations, Justice Department attorney Colin Kisor assured a district court in Washington that recruits would see their contracts canceled only if “derogatory” information was found in extensive background investigations.

Mamadzhanova and others said their screenings, which take months to complete, have begun recently and could not have returned results.

Meanwhile, confusion reigned for recruits in multiple states.

At one office in Illinois, a senior recruiter restored a contract less than two hours after The Post inquired about a case. In Texas, a recruiter did the same 12 minutes after a call seeking to confirm whether a recruit’s contract was canceled.

An immigrant recruit who came to the United States in 2006 and enlisted in Virginia said her contract was canceled Tuesday after she had waited for two years, just as her legal immigration status expired. She asked to opt-in for another year, but her contract was dissolved days later, she said.

Recruiters had assured her, saying her contract was a shield from federal immigration authorities, she said. She spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

She now fears deportation to her native Indonesia, which strips native-born people of citizenship if they enlist in a foreign military or pledge loyalty to another country, as she has done.

“I feel devastated,” she said. “The Army was my only hope.”

‘Gamified’ Military Training Offers Familiar Tools for Millennial Recruits



Photo: Boeing’s Advanced Deployable Accelerated Personalized Training program (ADAPT) 


“The military is moving away from the “traditional 500-page PDF manual” to train its soldiers.

The high-fidelity, immersive training simulations more closely resemble a Call of Duty video game than an educational tool, paired with Xbox 360 controllers and compatible on smartphones and tablets. These advanced technologies allow trainees born in the millennial generation to train more quickly on familiar devices.

The services are taking note of how their newest recruits take in information. Rear Adm. Michael White, commander of the Naval Education and Training Command, said in a Navy panel Nov. 30 that new sailors are “managing information that they want to be useful,” multi-tasking over diverse devices.

“As I look at this mobile generation … the training needs to be engaging,” he said, noting that the push toward live, virtual, constructive technology is a step in that direction.

New training also needs to provide reference points that allow trainees to quickly recall what they’ve learned, rather than attempt to remember what was said in a notebook or in a PowerPoint presentation in a schoolhouse, he said.

Delivery of the information is also key, White noted. “It has got to be delivered in a way … that we can quickly turn and match to systems that we see in the ship.”

Millennial recruitment and engagement are recurring problems being voiced across the services, he noted. Training systems that employ cloud-based technologies, such as Cubic’s game-based littoral combat ship courseware — called the Immersive Combat Ship Environment — or augmented/virtual reality can boost trainee interest and increase information retention while saving money, he said.

“We all have a little bit of [attention deficit disorder] nowadays, so if I can keep your attention on something for an hour, that’s a huge win for us,” he said.

Raytheon displayed its new Army training program — called the multi-player scenario — at the conference. Developed over the past two years, it employs augmented reality headsets, like the Microsoft Hololens, and game controllers to train recruits how to perform tasks, such as fixing a flat tire in the middle of the desert.

Many of the program’s engineers are in their mid-to-late 20s, and these are the technologies they’re interested in working with, said Roy Portillo, a software engineer at Raytheon.

“Since most of us are relatively young, this is what we were into,” he said. “Of course the soldiers are young, so they like it. When they come back from being out in the field, they’re going to be … playing a PlayStation.”

The program has been fielded at school houses at Fort Sill Army Base in Oklahoma, Portillo said.

It’s not just the military that is trying to attract the newest college graduates. Boeing is using its own recruitment experiences to inform its development of military training solutions, said Tim Noonan, vice president of training systems and government services.

“We hire thousands and thousands of college graduates every year, and we’re adapting the way that we onboard those employees to the company,” pulling some of those ideas into the company’s services, he said. The company’s new advanced deployable accelerated personalized training (ADAPT) system is one such program, he said. It uses augmented and virtual reality headsets and game controllers, and can be linked up to a virtual P-8 Poseidon maritime aircraft maintenance training system to enhance the learning experience.

“That does start to get at the promise of how do we bring tools and engage and gamify training in a new way,” he said.

Nugent said that Intific and Cubic employs former game designers, and works to recruit high-level developers who want to use their skills to benefit the military.

“It’s exciting to them, because they immediately see the payoff,” he said.

Still, simulations cannot completely replace the benefits of having real tools in hand, White noted in the panel.  “If we’re going to train someone to maintain the jet engine or a diesel or something like that, I’ve got to give them those hands-on skills first,” he said.”




Give Troops The Pay and Benefits They Deserve




” It is incredibly disappointing to see  the degradation of pay and benefits to the one weapon that has never let us down: our men and women in uniform.

Military families have done enough and the future force is at stake. Congress needs to support both readiness and the people programs necessary to sustain the force. It is not a case of one or the other.

For only the third time in 20 years, the Army may fall short of its recruitment numbers,USA Today reported.

Equally disheartening, the president recently told Congress he intends to cap the military pay raise a full percentage point below inflation. When will this erosion of pay for the all-volunteer force stop?

The Military Officers Association of America, or MOAA, holds out hope those in Congress will make the right decision to support the troops during the upcoming defense bill debate.

MOAA is not oblivious to the burden sequestration has forced on defense planners. Former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said the Army would be unable to fulfill its mission if sequestration continues.

The declining morale in the force is real. Last year, troops reported lower overall job satisfaction and declining interest in reenlistment last year. In February, the services’ top enlisted gave Congress the same warning.

Look at the situation from the troops’ perspective: frequent and dangerous long deployments; lower pay; higher costs for food, housing, and health care; not to mention the uncertainty of getting a pink slip downrange – or worse. Is this the kind of environment you’d want to work and live in or have your spouse exposed to?

Unless the House’s position prevails in the ongoing conference with the Senate, military families will face a third straight year of pay caps. The last five pay raises have been the smallest in the history of the all-volunteer force. Add to that another year of depressed housing allowances, higher prices at on-base stores due to hundreds of millions of dollars being slashed from the commissary budget, and proposals to make retirees pay more for health care.

Military families have done their part with selfless service and sacrifice over a decade-plus of combat operations. They remain resilient, but with continued calls to erode pay and benefits, cracks are starting to show. For only the third time in 20 years, the Army may fall short of its recruitment numbers,USA Today reported.

Retirees have also shared in the sacrifice. Since 2011, beneficiaries have seen TRICARE Prime enrollment fees increase by 23 percent (2011 and 2015 figures), double the rate of inflation over the same period. Over the same time span, TRICARE beneficiaries’’ retail pharmacy copays have risen by a whopping 145 percent.

Pitting readiness against personnel is a false choice and a breach of faith. Anyone who has conducted a foot patrol on the streets of Iraq or dealt with tribal leaders in Afghanistan can tell you once trust is breached, you lose the hearts and minds of those around you.

At a time when voices across America say that sustaining our armed forces is Job One, Senate lawmakers remain the main obstacle to passing a commonsense defense budget that protects both the nation and the men and women who serve to protect it. The administration’s and Senate’s ill-advised stance on total military compensation threatens to undermine the future of the all-volunteer force.”

The military community wants to be part of the solution, and it has been – but when is enough, enough?”


Tats and Techies: Building the Next U.S. Military


Photo credit Juhan Sonin

Photo Credit: Juhan Sonin


“The U.S. military is unlikely to embrace sweeping change for the best of reasons: The chaotic nature of wars requires substantial individual and organizational discipline to fight and win them. For sizable parts of the force, that may be appropriate – for now.

But warfare itself is changing. The next major war involving U.S. military forces may well demand more skills related to executing cyber attacks on an adversary’s networks than to launching large-scale infantry assaults.

Last Monday, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced a series of personnel initiatives focused on “recruiting and retaining the best and brightest” for the U.S. military. On Wednesday, Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno announced that the Army would repeal a deeply unpopular recent policy that barred recruits with many types and sizes of tattoos, a change from the previous decade-long practice where troops with lots of “ink” not only joined up but soon went to war.

What do these two seemingly unrelated news events have in common? They are both glimmers of hope that the U.S. military is, at long last, starting to adopt the more flexible personnel policies that it needs to succeed in the 21st century.

Carter and Odierno are on the cusp of a big idea. The next U.S. military – and particularly its senior leadership – must open its eyes to the fundamental change represented by young people of the Millennial generation and the characteristics that define them. Frequent job changes. Career flexibility. Intolerance for bureaucracy. Values beyond work. Adjustable work hours. Aversion to hierarchy. Tattoos. And yes, even body piercings.

Taken together, the Carter and Odierno announcements suggest that U.S. military leaders are reassessing existing policies. They both point toward a new talent management approach – acknowledging the changing goals, interests, and preferences of today’s individual service members from a new generation while simultaneously ensuring that the needs of military services are fully met. If carried out, this new direction will inevitably cause major changes to long-held cultures and traditions.

Odierno’s announcement reversed a much more restrictive tattoo policy that was finalized only a year ago and that was strongly opposed by soldiers. His reasons for the about-face are telling: “Society is changing its views of tattoos and we have to change along with it. It makes sense. Soldiers have grown up in an era when tattoos were much more acceptable and we have to change with that.” The Army recognizes it must now reverse course to catch up to a social phenomenon that its current soldiers – and future recruits – already embrace.

Carter’s message addresses the same challenge from a different angle. One of the key themes of his speech at Philadelphia’s Abington High School was the overarching importance of people over hardware in building the military of the future. He told the students in the audience that people “are the foundation of our future force. There are lots of other pieces, too, like having the best technology, the best planes, ships, and tanks. But it all starts and ends with our people. If we can’t continue to attract, inspire, and excite talented young Americans like you, then nothing else will matter.”

He reiterated this theme the next day, in a speech at Syracuse University:

‘…we need to change to remain attractive to people to our children and our children’s children, recognizing that all generations are different. They’re not like us. They have a different way of thinking about their careers, about choice, about what excites them about what they want to do in the way of friends and families and everything else. And we need to understand that and connect to that to continue to have the best people come in.’

The seeds of winning the next war may be found in the speeches that Carter and Odierno gave last week. They are quietly sounding the call for change. There is an entire generation of young American men and women ready to answer that call, and tens of thousands already in uniform who will be heartened by Carter and Odierno’s distinct (and perhaps grudging) recognition that their generation is truly different. To win the fights of the 21st century, the nation’s military must inspire and motivate this generation both to serve, and to stay. To do so, it must be ready to experiment with new ideas, challenge long-held norms, and be prepared to divest those things not absolutely essential. Maintaining a military filled with people capable of out-thinking and out-fighting U.S. adversaries in the next decade may depend on many of these fresh ideas catching fire and spreading throughout the force.”